Kenya bans alcohol sale for 30 days
July 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Samuel Ouma
Kenyan government has banned the sale of alcohol in restaurants and eateries for one month as part of measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.
Speaking during the state of the nation address on Monday, the President said the bars remain closed until further notice.
The Head of the State directed the Inspector of General Police (IG) Hillary Mutyambai to revoke permanently licences of bars, restaurants and eateries that will flout the regulations in place.
Kenyatta reiterated that socialising in areas serving alcohol hampers government’s efforts in fighting the disease.
At the same time, he reviewed closing hours for eateries and restaurants to 7pm from 8pm.
“That there shall be no sale of alcoholic beverages in eateries and restaurants across the territory of the republic of Kenya effective midnight today for the next 30 days,” said Kenyatta.
The president further extended the nationwide dusk to dawn curfew by another 30 days. He ordered the IG not to spare any person who will breach safety measures given by the Ministry of Health.
“All measures will be for all Kenyans regardless of an individual’s status,” he directed.
Kenyans have been challenged to hold each other accountable adding that everybody is vulnerable to the disease.
“If someone enters your shop, and you own the business, if he has no mask, insist that they wear one. We are living in abnormal times. Let us not think that we are special. Please, let us not follow examples we have seen across the world,” said the president.
“We need to be realistic. None of us wants to mourn who would have survived if not for our actions. The power is in your hands. We are the ones who have the power to save,” he noted.
Since the president eased the Covid-19 restrictions on July 6, the country has witnessed a surge in the cases. The number of fatalities has also increased.
The President addressed the nation after meeting Governors in the State House in Nairobi.
Between Hushpuppi and Hushpoliticians
July 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Chido Onumah*
The last one month has witnessed a celebration of crime and corruption in Nigeria, from Ramoni Olorunwa Abbas, aka Ray Hushpuppi, to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which the president supervises as Minister of Petroleum Resources, to the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, and the leadership of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and everything in between.
With each revelation, my mind would go to Mc Edo Pikin, the talented and creative comedian who has popularized skits that compare absurd topics and situations. I imagined Mc Edo Pikin working on the difference between Hushpuppi and what we shall call Hushpoliticians—the tribe of political and public officers who have mortgaged the estate called Nigeria. He did not do that. But he did not disappoint when he released the “Difference between NDDC and NCDC.” Nigeria is a nest of political Hushpuppies—from Dino Melaye, an ally of Hushpuppi, to Ayo Fayose, Orji Uzor Kalu and Theodore Orji, to Rochas Okorocha, the list is endless.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Director-General and CEO of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission was right when she said—in response to the Hushpuppi affair—that the actions of Ramoni Olorunwa Abbas do not reflect who we are as a people. If in defence of our national pride we can afford to “deny” Mr. Abbas, I wonder what Abike Dabiri-Erewa makes of the putrid news of corruption by our Hushpoliticians oozing from every national orifice in the last one month. As a friend remarked when I used the term Hushpoliticians in a WhatsApp group recently, “When you think about it, Hushpuppi is better than these politicians. He is stealing other people’s money while our politicians are robbing our patrimony.”
Of course, there is nothing new about the activities of Hushpuppi and his clan, which includes the likes of Obinwanne George Okeke, aka Invictus Obi, and Olalekan Jacob Ponle, aka Woodberry. The rise of Hushpuppi and others like him must be viewed within the context of the new mode of expropriation and accumulation under capitalism. I am sure there are many young people in Nigeria who want to live the Hushpuppi dream; millions who may never have the benefit of education and opportunity to get a job no matter how hard they try; millions who are daily incubating new schemes while mired in the pain created by Hushpoliticians. Those who do not advance to become Hushpuppi will pray their way to becoming sidekicks and thugs of politicians and ultimately grow into Hushpoliticians.
But this piece is not about Hushpuppi—the young man whose ambition was to own a few commercial motorcycles and marry the daughter of a small-town restaurateur—who has managed to build global notoriety and a rap sheet as long as the Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, UAE. There will be another opportunity to explore the different dimensions of the Hushpuppi phenomenon. Just to say that Nigerian Hushpoliticians are enablers of Hushpuppi and company; the Hushpolitician is the father of Hushpuppi.
Stealing from Nigerians has been a favourite pastime of our Hushpoliticians since independence. But it does appear it has been given some veneer of legality in the last two decades. Let us use Mr. Godswill Akpabio, Nigeria’s Minister of Niger Delta, as a case study. Information available on Wikipedia.org notes that Akpabio has held political office since 2002 when he was appointed Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources in Akwa Ibom State. Between 2002 and 2006, he served as a Commissioner in three key ministries: Petroleum and Natural Resources, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, as well as Lands and Housing. He served as governor of the oil-rich state from 2007 to 2015 and senator from 2015 to 2019 when he was appointed a minister after his “uncommon defection” from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Of course, there is nothing progressive about Akpabio and his APC. After leaving office in 2015, Akpabio was the subject of investigation by the Counterterrorism and General Investigation Section of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations that he misappropriated more than N100bn. The allegations against Akpabio border on the award of bogus contracts to cronies who used the proceeds to buy several properties in Lagos and Abuja.
Three years ago, Mr. Akpabio and his colleagues in the “Former Governors Club” incurred the wrath of Nigerians when their allowances and other perquisites of office became public. In January 2017, a report in Vanguard newspaper noted that 47 former governors from 21 states in the country, drew as much as N37.4 billion from the public treasury. At the time of the report, there were 21 serving senators receiving pensions from government as ex-governors and deputy governors. There were also ministers receiving pensions as ex-governors.
As they prepared to leave office in May 2015, many of these Hushpoliticians hurriedly signed or amended existing laws to give themselves fantastic lifetime “retirement benefits.” This was the subject of a 2017 essay and later the title of a pamphlet—The Politics of State Robbery in Nigeria—published in 2018. I shall quote extensively from that essay to underscore the depth of the current crisis.
Akpabio stood out in this official sleaze. While leaving office as governor of Akwa Ibom State, he passed the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law which entitles a former governor and spouse in the state up to N100 million a year, and a former deputy governor and spouse up to N30 million, for medical treatment. Of course, this is pocket money for Akpabio because he will be paid that money whether he and his wife receive medical treatment or not. With this allowance, there was no incentive for Akpabio to worry about the health infrastructure in his state if he could rob the state to take care of himself and his family indefinitely.
Akpabio’s law provides that as ex-governor, he and his deputy will receive pensions equivalent to 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy (note: 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor, emphasis mine), one house not below 5-bed maisonette in either Abuja or Akwa Ibom for the former governor and 500% annual basic for the deputy for accommodation. For transportation, he and his deputy will get one car and one utility car every four years. Add to this, a furniture allowance, every four years, that is 300% of annual basic salary. He will receive N5 million and his deputy gets N2.5 million for domestic staff. Akpabio was not done. He will get a car maintenance allowance that is 300% of annual basic salary, entertainment allowance, 100% of annual basic salary, utility: 100% of annual basic salary, and severance gratuity: 300% annual basic salary.
The Lagos State Governor and Deputy Governor Pensions Law of 2007 endorsed by ex-governor Babatunde Fashola, now Minister of Works and Housing, is even more lucrative. It provides that a former governor is entitled to six new vehicles (three cars, two back-up cars and one pilot car) every three years and a house in Lagos and another in Abuja, the country’s most expensive housing markets. His deputy gets five vehicles every three years. They and their family members—you only need to invoke the governor’s name to qualify as a family member—are entitled to unlimited free medical services. Their pension will be the equivalent of 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy. There is a furniture allowance for these former “excellencies” that comes to 300% of their annual basic salary every two years.
We can go on and on. There is no name for this other than robbery. That it is sanctioned by the state makes it no less grievous than armed robbery. I made these arguments three years ago. Since then, nothing has changed—the situation has gotten worse—except the fact that Akpabio has moved from the PDP to the APC. Of course, state robbery—or what the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called Authority Stealing—has no party affiliation. This robbery unites our political elite, no matter their party, religious or ethnic affiliations. Once they are in power, they use the instrumentality of the state to rob their people and the country at will, while using laws to cover their crimes.
This is the scenario currently playing out with the corruption scandal at the NDDC. As Minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Akpabio has been accused of sundry acts of corruption by a former acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Joi Nunieh. Mr. Akpabio’s only defence for now is that Joi Nunieh had been married four times. You would think Mr. Akpabio works at a marriage registry not the Ministry of Niger Delta. Meanwhile, the man who ought to sanction Mr. Akpabio and rein in the banditry at the NDDC led by the fainthearted Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei has gone AWOL. Of course, this Daniel is not likely to come to judgement.
While we criticize Mr. Akpabio, Prof Pondei, and others for their malfeasance, we should not lose sight of the bigger problem: the issue of restructuring Nigeria, as well as the current leadership void in the country. We also have Mr. Akpabio to thank for his uncommon insight on why the problem of corruption in the NDDC—and indeed across the country—persists. In an interview with Arise TV, he said the president was not aware of the situation. That is the gut-wrenching reality. We are saddled with an absentee president. No matter how hard Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, the president’s myrmidons, try to spin it, Nigeria is a ship without a captain.
To think we must endure another three years of Buhari’s House of Commotion.
Did I hear someone say #RevolutionNow!
*Onumah’s latest work, When is a Nation: Remaking Nigeria at 60 is due October 1, 2020. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org or @conumah
Zimbabwean Politics Take Sides with Covid-19 outbreak As President Mnangagwa Introduces Curfew .
July 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Nevson Mpofu
Zimbabwe is currently under difficult challenges as President Mnangagwa’s political tactics, strategies and antics hit a snag in his bid to solve a crisis looming. Three days ago activists who had planned the 31 July protests Hopewell Chin’ono a journalist and Jacob Ngarivhume faced an arrest which made President Mnangagwa to call for a curfew a day after their arrest.
In a statement live on broadcast 4 days ago President Mnangagwa asked the nation to take precautions Health measures so as to fight and eliminate Covid-19 a virus which has turned the World topsy-turvy. He also turned Law censorious to those breaching principles of the Public Health Act during this difficult time. This he added would be supported by a curfew meant to restrict and control movements.
‘’We have to be compliant with all the measures put in place so as to stay Health. We ha come out with several measures to make us alive in this difficult time. This is done for people’s Health during Covid-19 . The Law will serious bounce on those found failing to comply with rules. I therefore declare that for us to stay safe as a nation by 600 pm up to 6ooam the morrow day we are all in our homes.
‘’All business closes at 300 pm to pave way for safe ride home, stay away from crowded conditions. In a move to bring more safety, only workers are allowed to get in towns and cities, move around ad do business as usual. Only registered Small to Medium Enterprises do business. Soldiers and police are tightening road blocks throughout the country.’’
However, despite President Mnangagwa’s move to bring sanity and safety during this time, critics from within the Government, Civil Society, Corporate World and the United Nations have repeatedly taken nasty critical swipe on President’s political stance and behaviour meant to make people suffer. He has been criticised for abuse of human rights after the arrest of two activities Chin’ono and Ngarivhume who have been pushing for transitional changes in the country.
Is President Mnangagwa taking Advantage ..
Several critics from all political spheres are critically looking at President Mnangagwa with a twitching eye as curfew zooms during the looming time of covid-19 . President Mnangagwa is to blame for putting tough measures in line with politics linking corona outbreak as the Health challenge. On abuses they now take him for a swipe when he tighten screws on curfew talking Health issues yet they are political sides of the escalating story in the country.
A political Scientist who asked for anonymity had this to say to this on-line . The Professor of the University of Zimbabwe blames politics which he says is the source of Zimbabwe’s challenges since 1980.
‘’ Remember there is a political challenge in the country. People are suffering as we talk politics during covid-19 era . People are not free to move around because of covid-19 turning politics at a time we must be looking only at Public Health issues. There are top figures ready to stir opposition politics and most of them are in ZANU PF . Mind you the 31 July protest by several opposers to Mnangagwa’s rule are backed as well by those in ZANU PF , old political activities , invited MDC people and some opponents speaking tough about the President .’’
A Health Expert points out as well . Asking for anonymity he heavily blasts all political parties .
‘’All political parties are to blame, Why protests and demos yet people are yet to eliminate covid-19 . Our big challenge is covid-19 turns to politics a harsh time snag to Zimbabwe with a bleeding Economy as we try to make ends meet. Politicians are taking advantage ‘’ , he concludes .
Cameroon: The Government Should be Accountable in its Actions — Experts say
July 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
The Nkafu Policy Institute through its Governance and Democracy programme is creating avenues to encourage greater participation of the citizens in giving their views on how good governance can be achieved in Cameroon
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
To many non-partisan actors, the crisis which has been on for four years today is symptomatic of poor governance that have not been able to usher in socioeconomic developments to make the population lead better lives. The consequences of these conflicts are so devastating that it appears there is urgency to debate and propose solid measures that will promote good governance and development.
The event that was held July 17, 2020, was organized by the Nkafu Policy Institute of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation in partnership with the National Empowerment for Democracy.
During the event presentations were centered on the following key thematic: Overview of the Governance in Cameroon, The link between governance practices and conflicts in Cameroon, Accountability as the fundamental requirement of Good Governance, and A path to good governance in Cameroon, and the restoration of lasting peace and security.
Speaking on accountability and what can be done to encourage it in Cameroon Rene Momene Otte, Expert in International cooperation said good governance is transparent, open and honesty, while it is also responsive. He added that good governance makes it possible for corrupt officials to be punished.
“Accountability means answerability. If a government is answerable then it is accountable. Government should be willing to acknowledge errors, mistakes, and that is what governance is,” He said.
Asked on what is the best method of promoting good governance Mr Momene said the diaspora at the moment is already doing its part, posing a lot of questions. “The government needs to be humble and accept the realities on the ground. We need to be advocating for better services, better treatment of the population, advocating for the right to live.
“Good governance is the solution to the numerous problems we have in our country today. Peace and security challenges are a result of bad governance,” Beng Primus, Instructor of International relations and conflict resolution, University of Buea said. “We have to avoid imported constitution. For good governance to hold, Cameroon needs to create its own constitution independent of France and take in to cognizance there are diverse communities in Cameroon and it should be reflected in our constitution.”
“The second aspect is to understand resource governance in Cameroon. The government has to take the responsibility that where the resources are coming from the areas that produce the resources need to be taken care of.” “The peace building process has to encompass electoral assistance, judicial reforms, measures to strengthen health and education, job creation especially for the youths. These are some policies the government needs to put in place to restore lasting peace in Cameroon.
According to a concept note from the Nkafu Policy Institute, since independence, many pundits quickly criticize the quality of governance by the dominantly centralized governments as responsible for security and other development challenges. Ironically, the country is endowed with rich natural resources, including oil and gas, minerals, timber, and agricultural products. Despite this rich natural endowment, it would seem that the existing governance dispensation in the country since its independence from colonial rule has generated divisions, injustice, prejudice, growing inequalities among the citizenry based on ethnicity, language and other class principles.
Some ethnic groups seem to have been favoured over others regarding appointments and resource allocation. The theory of regional balance in resource allocation, and distribution of state resources as preached by the government is selective and discriminatory. This is possible because centralization gave the government of Cameroon tremendous authority over most aspects of politics and economic control.
This event like others seeks to provide Scholars, Youth Leaders and Citizens a platform to amplify their voices that would significantly contribute to good governance in Cameroon, especially through the promotion of a democracy that works. It is in line with the mission of the Nkafu Policy Institute, a think tank (research center) of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation, which is to carry out independent research and provide in-depth and insightful evidence based recommendations that advance the development of Cameroon and other sub-Saharan African countries.
Cameroon: Chief Nkemayang Paul, Publisher of The Star Newspaper interred
July 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
One of the leading campaigners for media rights in Cameroon and the Publisher of the Star Newspaper Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul, who died June 18, 2020, had been laid to rest. The burial of the journalist, traditional ruler took place July 25, 2020, in Limbe, South West Region of Cameroon.
The late traditional ruler died of a reported diabetic coma at the Presbyterian Health Centre in Down Beach Limbe. According to the wife, the late Chief Nkemayang Paul was rushed to the hospital and his vital signs were checked, revealing that his blood sugar level was above 500 which made him to go into a diabetic coma before his demise.
Scores of people, friends, family members, fellow journalists, and government officials (Minister Paul Tasong, Senator Mbella Moki Charles, Andrew Motanga Monjimba, Limbe City Mayor) turned out at the Catholic Church in Bonadikombo, Mile 4, Limbe to pay their last respect.
He founded The Star Newspaper in January 1991. The Knight of the National Order of Valour was pioneer President of the Commonwealth Journalists Association, CJA Cameroon cumulatively serving as Vice President of CJA Africa.
Chief Nkemayang Paul was a founding member of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists, and a founding member of the National Communication Council. He was also technical adviser to the Cameroon Anglophone Newspaper Publishers Association, and a traditional ruler in his native Lebialem. He was crowned Osari Maribu in Manyu among other traditional titles he received.
Speaking to the mourners His Lordship Bishop Andrew Nkea of the Bamenda Metropolitan Archdiocese said, “We have lost a promoter of social justice, and an ambassador of truth.” “Chief Nkemayang was ready to give his all for his people and defend human rights.”
The Bishop went on to call on all to stay awake and for all to be ready as they do not know what tomorrow lies ahead. To him, everyone should be dress for action as one can just drop dead at any moment. “Always stand for truth and do not manipulate information for your advantage. Always have the duty for you to defend those who are being oppressed,” Bishop Andrew Nkea told journalists.
Chief Nkemayang dedicated his over three-decade journalism career fighting for a better society, improved working conditions for journalists and the abolition of obnoxious and archaic media laws. As a journalist he had no fewer than eight detentions without trial. He was never prosecuted, but was always persecuted. Chief Nkemayang’s courage and readiness to continue doing his work in truth won him several distinctions at home and abroad.
It was his advocacy of a free press and journalists’ rights for which Chief Foanyi will probably be most remembered. He was detained several times by the authorities but never prosecuted. He was prominent most recently in the campaign for justice for fellow Cameroonian journalist Samuel Wazizi, who died in suspicious circumstances while being detained by the military.
“A good journalist must be somebody who is courageous, one who speaks the truth without blinking, and one who writes without blemish,” Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul once said.
Samuel Wazizi had been accused of speaking critically on air about the authorities and their handling of the crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, where clashes between soldiers and separatists calling for independence or more autonomy have left many dead. Many more thousands of people have been displaced.
The late Chief Nkemayang Paul was posthumously decorated Commander of the National Order of Valour, something the chief had been seeking before his demise. “… Today I feel like he is a happy man and I feel that what he wanted 9Commader of the National Order of Valour) the state has recognized him even at his dead,” Solomon Agborem, Editor of the Star Newspaper told PAV.
“… We are going to miss him but I can assure the Cameroonian people that we will continue dedicating service and truth as our motto of The Star Newspaper. The paper lives on, and they should expect to read from us as the bigger stories are right ahead.”
“He was someone who not only fought for the rights of journalists but fought against all forms of gross human rights violations. It is a big loss not only to the media houses but for everyone in the North West and South West Regions. We hope the young journalists will follow in the chief’s footstep and leave a legacy for posterity,” Barrister Agbor Nkongho Felix said.
Saudi Ministry of Media Inaugurates Hajj Virtual Press Office and Integrated Media Services Platform
July 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
Platform to provide international and local journalists with access to exclusive videos, photos and comments
It represents a paradigm shift in keeping with global digital transformation, whilst mitigating impact of current travel limitations
MAKKAH, July 25, 2020 — In the context of its exceptional coverage of Hajj 2020, the Saudi Ministry of Media has inaugurated an advanced digital service which meets all international and local media requirements, and ensures the best-in-class service to local and international media covering this year’s Hajj season. The service will allow journalists to receive key files, materials and comments, respond to media inquiries, interview officials and stakeholders and attend and participate in live press conferences.
The digital service, which will be available in Arabic and English under the name of Hajj Virtual Press Office will address the challenges of information acquisition and the international transmission of media materials.
Through the platform, local and international journalists will be able to request exclusive services, such as high-quality pictures or custom-made videos, in addition to remote access to all other available services, including hosting officials or stakeholders for exclusive interviews and obtaining comments and responses to inquiries, journalists as well as the general public will also be able to view media content intended for the wider public.
Hundreds of Saudi-based journalists, along with more than 2,500 international journalists registered with the Communication Agency’s database, will receive emails to register their names on the digital platform to benefit from the services of the Hajj Virtual Press Office, for which the Communication Agency has dedicated a team of media professionals and international media relations officers to ensure that journalists get the best-in-class services.
Pilgrims start to arrive in Makkah in preparation for Hajj 2020
July 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
MAKKAH, July 25. 2020 – Pilgrims arrive in the holy city of Makkah July 25 in preparation for Hajj, which begins on July 28. The major Islamic pilgrimage will continue until August 2. This year marks an exception for the annual pilgrimage, with the Saudi authorities having to balance their responsibility as the host of the Muslim world’s biggest and most important religious gathering with the urgency to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Also shown in the photos are items in a special bag kit containing a face mask, Hajj ihram cloth garment, a prayer rug, ritual stones, as well as personal hygiene items such as shaving instruments, personal care tools, a guidebook for the pilgrimage and other amenities. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah – as part of its precautionary health measures – has provided each of the pilgrims with these kits.
As a precautionary measure, the pilgrims needed to undergo a weeklong home isolation (which ended on Saturday, July 25), before undergoing a mandatory quarantine for four days at designated hotels in the holy city before the start of the pilgrimage. This ought to be followed by another round of self-isolation post-pilgrimage. The Kingdom has also announced drastic curbs to numbers for pilgrims, allowing only citizens and residents – representing 160 nationalities – who meet certain criteria to perform Hajj, a religious journey which every Muslim should perform at least once in their lifetimes provided they are able physically and financially. Pilgrims who managed to get a spot were randomly selected through an automated system. Health standards of individuals were the primary determinant factor for selecting pilgrims this year, according to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. Other criteria stipulated that individuals should be between the ages of 20 and 50, free of chronic diseases and should produce a PCR-test result to prove that they are free of the Coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has set up tents at Mount Arafat and made transport arrangements for pilgrims who will have to adhere to strict social-distancing norms. A group leader has been identified for each group of pilgrims, to make sure that the preventive measures and health messages are clearly communicated to them. This leader will facilitate communication with the pilgrims and inform them of developments first-hand.
As for the isolation procedures, the pilgrims must wear electronic bracelets to ensure that they are adhering to ‘domestic isolation’ procedures before they head to the holy places. They have to undergo the ‘institutional isolation’ from the 4th to the 8th of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah (Saturday July 25 to Tuesday July 28) in Makkah, according to Ministry of Hajj and Umrah officials.
*Ministry of Media
Hajj 2020: Saudi Arabia Readies for Unprecedented Islamic Pilgrimage Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
July 26, 2020 | 0 Comments
Pilgrims selected from 160 nationalities within the Kingdom
Pilgrim numbers drastically cut down as a measure to stem the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic
Pilgrims finish weeklong home isolation to be followed by 4-day quarantine in Makkah
MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia, July 26, 2020 – This year’s Hajj pilgrims on Saturday finished the procedures of a weeklong home isolation, according to the health protocol approved for the major Islamic pilgrimage this year that begins next week. Pilgrims started arriving in Makkah, where they will undergo four days of quarantine at designated hotels in the holy city.
The strict health protocol was approved by the Saudi government to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Hajj begins on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic year 1441, and runs to the 12th or 13th of Dhul Hijjah, corresponding to July 28-August 2 , 2020. The Saudi authorities decided to hold the pilgrimage in the midst of exceptional circumstances caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, necessitating strict precautionary measures that have been applied to ensure a safer Hajj.
The pilgrimage this year is limited to citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia, who meet preset conditions and have been subjected to quarantine procedures. Individuals from 160 nationalities residing in the Kingdom have been selected to perform the Hajj. The number of pilgrims has been dramatically reduced to ensure social distancing measures are adhered to.
‘Exceptional Hajj Season’
Minister of Hajj and Umrah, H.E. Dr. Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, said the organisation of Hajj for 2020 is being carried out according to a strategic plan and strict health protocols. These comprehensive plans will be implemented by security and health and service agencies.
The plans include the provision of the best of health services and most appropriate crowd control, in line with the precautionary measures and preventive protocols formulated by the Ministry of Health to ensure pilgrims’ health safety, H.E. Benten said.
“Hajj in 2020 is a truly exceptional pilgrimage by all measures,” H.E. Benten said. “It is taking place amidst the very unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, which is impacting Saudi Arabia and the world at large. Due to the exceptional global health circumstances caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, strict precautionary measures have been applied to ensure a healthy Hajj for all pilgrims.”
“We are using engineering standards and protocols, whether in arrivals, or in transport by buses, and in the circumambulation around the Kaaba, and in Saee (Hajj ritual), and services that the pilgrim need but in a way to safeguard them against infection, without transmission of the virus to the pilgrim or to the workers also serving this pilgrim,” H.E. Benten said.
He lauded the support from the Kingdom’s leadership, stressing that the selection process was carried out in complete transparency, with careful observance of health determinants, the most important of which was the pilgrim obtaining a certified PCR certificate proving a negative COVID-19 result.
“Health determinants are the basis in the process of selecting pilgrims residing inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and there are no exceptions to anyone during the Hajj season 1441 AH,” His Excellency said, in remarks carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Friday.
H.E. Benten added: “The Hajj pilgrimage this year will not be performed by any government official or participant in the service of pilgrims.” Ensuring the safety of the pilgrims and the cadres working in the service of pilgrims is the most important thing during this Hajj season, he said.
According to Major General Mohammed bin Wasl Al-Ahmadi, Assistant Commander of the Hajj Security Forces for the Grand Mosque and its premises Security, the Hajj security plan for is based on four pillars: organisation, security, humanitarianism and healthcare.
The Hajj Security Force has put a mechanism fixing ways of entrance and exit from and to the Grand mosque during the pilgrimage, he said, with passage for pilgrims extending from the southern and western premises of the mosque, as well as special passages around the circumambulation and Saee areas.
This time around, pilgrims will head to Makkah after finishing their isolation period. They will spend days in one of Makkah’s hotels, inspected personally by H.E. Benten.
The pilgrims will receive healthcare inspections at their Makkah hotels to check for any symptoms. Upon a positive signal, the faithful will head to Mount Arafat accompanied by a medical team.
Tents to accommodate pilgrims have been set up at Mount Arafat by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, which also put in place plans to transport the pilgrims while strict social distancing measures are being observed.
Pilgrims arriving at the hotels in Makkah received a special kit provided by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. It contained a face mask, Hajj ihram garments, a prayer rug, ritual stones and hygiene items such as shaving instruments, personal-care tools and a guidebook for the pilgrimage.
Starting on Saturday, pilgrims will start a four-day hotel quarantine, according to H.E. Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Abdel Fattah bin Suleiman Mashat.
In comments carried by SPA, HE Mashat has confirmed that there was coordination with the Ministries of Health and Interior for the application of health and security protocols, during Hajj, which he also described as an “the exceptional Hajj” of all procedural, organisational and health standards.
“There are 160 nationalities representing all resident pilgrims who were chosen to perform Hajj this year,” he said, adding that was no differentiation in the selection process except in terms of health standards set by the health authorities.
Dr. Mashat said that the selection of the resident pilgrims was through the electronic portal, noting that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah began implementing from early on its detailed and operational plans to organise this year’s Hajj, which came in exceptional circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, taking all health, security and organisational measures for pilgrims to perform the rites of the fifth pillar of Islam in peace and security.
Elaborating on the measures, he said a leader was identified for each group of pilgrims to make sure that the preventive measures and health messages were clear to them.
‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’
Fawziya Mohamed, 38, from Malaysia, said: “I am from Malaysia and this is my first time to perform Hajj this year. ‘Alhamdillah’, I feel very grateful because I didn’t think I was going to receive this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. They called me to announce my acceptance into Hajj and I truly believe this was a gift, as coincidentally I will be celebrating my upcoming birthday which falls on July 28 (first day of hajj rituals).”
Upon his arrival in Makkah, a Macedonian pilgrim who identified himself as Alaaeldine, said: “Selam aleykum. Alhamdulillah we have arrived safe and sound… I want to thank everyone involved in the organization for this year’s Hajj; may Allah be pleased with you all. Jazak Allahu khayr.”
Azra Alli, 38, from South Africa, who works as an English language teacher in Jeddah and has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past 6 years, said she was always reluctant to perform Hajj due to the massive crowds in years past.
“I honestly never had any prior intentions to do Hajj this year. One of my biggest concerns was always the large number of people that come for Hajj each year. The idea of joining 2.5 million always made me feel claustrophobic. But then COVID-19 happened and life as we knew it changed. Initially, I was afraid of the idea of doing Hajj in a pandemic, but then I thought that it was highly unlikely that I’d be chosen anyway, and it wouldn’t hurt just to try.
“I was really impressed at the amount of thought that went into the execution of everything from the enforced quarantine, to the visit from the Ministry of Health, and the overall coordination of everything given that it all occurred over a very short period of time.”
Asked if she was nervous and why, Alli said: “At this moment in time I’m quite overwhelmed with everything. It feels like everything is happening all at once and that I’m not ready… Is anyone ever really ready? The gravity of this ritual hits home. It’s a kind of reckoning, not just with The Almighty, but with oneself too. It’s both equally exciting and terrifying.
“This is the most grateful gift and feeling that I have ever known.”
*Ministry of Media
Cameroon: Iya Foundation Launches Food Security Programme for Kidney Patients
July 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Kidney disease is a non-communicable disease which currently affects around 850 million people worldwide. In Cameroon alone, almost 4000 deaths are attributed to kidney disease, with many more unaccountable. The growing prevalence is alarming and the lack of resources to care for the growing population of kidney failure patients is frightening.
Mesape Marbel, psychologist at the Iya Foundation Female Resource Centre said the reason for the launch of the Centre is that dialysis is very expensive as patients go to consult twice a week. “As such many patients cannot afford good quality of food, while some can afford to buy perishable goods,” She said
The foundation has launched this programme to offer non-perishable goods to patients which will help them save money for the dialysis. The food security programme is going to take place 4 times a year (every 3 months). The kidney patients were provided with rice, spaghetti, savon and other items.
“Iya foundation is calling on partners to support the food pantry as one is going to be open to support patients, and even orphanages. Even if you are a farmer you can partner with us as even the tomatoes they donate will go a long way to help the patients,” Mesape Marbel said.
The CEO Iya Bekondo has fought kidney disease for more than 30 years. At age seven (7) she was diagnosed with kidney disease, and subsequently lost her kidney ten years later. She received an organ from her mother at the age of 17 and both are doing fine. Upon receipt of her transplant, Iya has made a commitment to helping low-income uninsured patients who suffer from end stage renal disease, as well as educate, inform, and create awareness about chronic kidney disease.
The Kidney patients have appreciated the gesture from the Iya Foundation, though it is not the first time they are receiving such a gesture from the foundation. “We feel happy, and we believe we have somebody behind us who is assisting us morally, financially and materially,” Mola Mbala, President of haemodialysis patients told reporters.
He further frowned at the poor situation of dialysis machines at the Hospital which has led to some losing their lives. “At the moment, there are not enough dialysis machines and if not of a technician who manages to put up the old machines (the machines run day and night). There are days that only 2 machines are working and those 2 machines cannot dialyze 30 patients a day. The dead rate is alarming as in just one week we have lost 8 patients because the machines are not there. We do not have a difficult distress breathing machines.”
Mathias Ngale said he is very happy because he knows their mother is there for them. Kidney problem is a difficult task because every week you to dialysis twice, and we are very grateful for her donation which she has been offering for some seven years now,” He said.
This is not the first time that the foundation is assisting kidney patients. In celebration of the World Kidney Day members of the Foundation held a community sensitization campaign in Limbe. During this process free screening for early detection, and a kidney walk was organized.
According to a Medical consultant , organ donation should not be something scary for people not to undertake as there are hospitals that are qualified and the risks are really minimal now.
The Iya Foundation is a New Jersey based 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization which aims to save lives by educating and raising awareness on chronic kidney disease as well as raise funds that benefit low-income uninsured End Stage Renal Disease Patients, especially amongst the U.S. African Immigrant community and abroad. The foundation offers counselling, education, nutrition advise for kidney patients.
Over 10 000 health workers in Africa infected with COVID-19
July 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
|Inadequate access to personal protective equipment or weak infection prevention and control measures raise the risk of health worker infection.|
The World Health Organization (WHO) today warned of the threat posed by COVID-19 to health workers across Africa. More than 10 000 health workers in the 40 countries which have reported on such infections have been infected with COVID-19 so far, a sign of the challenges medical staff on the frontlines of the outbreak face.
This comes as COVID-19 cases in Africa appear to be gathering pace. There are now more than 750 000 cases of COVID-19, with over 15 000 deaths. Some countries are approaching a critical number of infections that can place stress on health systems. South Africa is now among the worst-hit countries in the world.
“The growth we are seeing in COVID-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services across the continent,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This has very real consequences for the individuals who work in them, and there is no more sobering example of this than the rising number of health worker infections.”
So far, about 10% of all cases globally are among health workers, though there is a wide range between individual countries. In Africa, information on health worker infections is still limited, but preliminary data finds that they make up more than 5% of cases in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa alone, and in four of these, health workers make up more than 10% of all infections.
Inadequate access to personal protective equipment or weak infection prevention and control measures raise the risk of health worker infection. Surging global demand for protective equipment as well as global restrictions on travel have triggered supply shortages. Health workers can also be exposed to patients who do not show signs of the disease and are in the health facilities for a range of other services. Risks may also arise when health personnel are repurposed for COVID-19 response without adequate briefing, or because of heavy workloads which result in fatigue, burnout and possibly not fully applying the standard operating procedures.
In many African countries infection prevention and control measures aimed at preventing infections in health facilities are still not fully implemented. When WHO assessed clinics and hospitals across the continent for these measures, only 16% of the nearly 30 000 facilities surveyed had assessment scores above 75%. Many health centres were found to lack the infrastructure necessary to implement key infection prevention measures, or to prevent overcrowding. Only 7.8% (2213) had isolation capacities and just a third had the capacity to triage patients.
“One infection among health workers is one too many,” said Dr Moeti. “Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are our mothers, brothers and sisters. They are helping to save lives endangered by COVID-19. We must make sure that they have the equipment, skills and information they need to keep themselves, their patients and colleagues safe.”
WHO has been working closely with health ministries to reduce health worker infections since the outbreak began. The Organization has trained more than 50 000 health workers in Africa in infection prevention and control, with plans to train over 200 000 more, as well as providing guidance documents and guidelines on best care practices and the most up-to-date treatment regimes.
WHO is also helping to fill gaps in the supply of personal protective equipment. Currently, 41 million items of personal protective equipment are ready to ship from China to cover the needs of 47 African countries. Shipments for an initial set of 23 African countries are planned to start during this weekend.
As a result of concerted efforts by WHO and partners some African countries have managed to reduce health worker infections considerably. For example, two months ago over 16% of COVID-19 infections in Sierra Leone were among health workers. The figure has now dropped to 9%. Cote d’Ivoire has reduced the proportion of infections among health workers from 6.1% to 1.4%. Scaling up infection prevention and control measures can further reduce infections among health workers.
Dr Moeti spoke about health worker infections in Africa during a virtual press conference today organized by APO Group. She was joined by Hon Dr Léonie Claudine Lougue, Minister of Health of Burkina Faso; Hon Dr Alpha T. Wurie, Minister of Health and Population of Sierra Leone; and Dr Jemima A. Dennis-Antwi, International Maternal Health & Midwifery Specialist.
Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) confirms Chief Executive Officer
July 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
|Appointment of Victoria Sabula as its permanent Chief Executive Officer.|
The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) announced today the appointment of Victoria Sabula as its permanent Chief Executive Officer.
It follows her appointment as Interim Chief Executive Officer in August 2019 after serving as AGRA’s General Counsel and Corporation Secretary for five years and previously holding several positions at KCB Bank Group.
Hixonia Nyasulu, Board Chair said:
“On behalf of the Board, I am delighted to confirm that Victoria Sabula has been appointed AECF’s Chief Executive Officer. This decision follows a rigorous recruitment process conducted with an international consulting firm where Victoria rose to the top of a very strong field of candidates.”
“Victoria impressed the board with her strategic vision, depth of management expertise, and proven track record both at AECF as interim CEO, and previously at AGRA and KCB Group.”
Victoria Sabula, Chief Executive Officer of AECF, said:
“I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of AECF after having had the opportunity of leading the organisation as interim CEO for the last year.”
“AECF has remained true to its founding purpose which was to make systems work for the poor in sub-Sahara Africa. AECF remains committed to leaving no one behind and we will continue to push the boundaries, being intentional that our investments present opportunities for women, and truly bring the benefits of private sector to low-income households.”
Prior to joining The AECF, Victoria served as AGRA’s General Counsel and Corporation Secretary providing strategic oversight on legal advisory, compliance, risk management and governance for AGRA’s programmatic activities across sub-Saharan Africa. Starting her career with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group, Victoria is a senior institutional leader with C-Suite experience in both private sector and non-profit sector.
Victoria holds a Bachelor of Law (LLB) Degree from Moi University, a post Graduate Diploma in Law from Kenya School of Law, a diploma in Human Resource Management from Kenya Institute of Management and a Master’s in Business Administration from Nazarene University. In 2015 she was named in the Legal 500’s General Counsel Power List Africa, which recognizes the top 100 corporate counsels in Africa.
The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) is a non-profit institution that supports early and growth-stage businesses in the agribusiness and renewable energy sectors to reduce poverty, promote resilient communities, and create jobs through private sector investments.
Since 2008, AECF has invested in 268 businesses across sub-Sahara Africa focusing on Agribusiness, Renewable Energy and Climate Technologies. As of 2019, we have impacted more than 17 million lives and created over 12,000 jobs and leveraged over US$ 750 million in matching funds from the private sector. AECF is headquartered in Kenya with offices in Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania.
Covid-19, Telecommuting and Africa’s Digital Space
July 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Opeoluwa Runsewe
|The workplace and the education sector can now create new, sustainable models which are accessible, inclusive and qualitative|
It is no news that the outbreak and proliferation of Covid-19 have had some of the most acute implications on global economies in recent times; the vast majority of private and public institutions have been put on edge and are being forced to mitigate these unforeseen contingencies by adopting the swiftest and most dynamic mechanisms.
Gradually, the virus has spread to 188 countries, with it’s ramifications cutting across all demographics. According to verified data by John Hopkins University in the United States, as at July 16th 2020, more than 13.5 million cases and 584,000 deaths had been reported; Schools, businesses and airports have been closed, restrictions on movement and large gatherings have been enforced, and one too many businesses have been obligated to urgently close shop regardless of the concerted effort by governments and health care professionals to curtail the rate of infection. However, it remains largely uncertain and highly debatable as to whether the recently imposed restrictive measures will be totally terminated in a bid to ensure that economic activities can imminently reach full potential. According to the IMF, the global economy will shrink by 3% this year; in what is described as the worst decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The effects of restrictions on countries expectedly differ. The availability of universal healthcare, digital devices, access to data, digitalization of systems and processes, good and affordable broadband internet service, financial inclusion, social prosperity and other proactive measures have been consequential in countries that appear to attenuate the enormous economic impact. For instance, the central banks of several countries have successfully slashed interest rates alongside other Fiscal and monetary policies, all in an effort to encourage borrowing and spending. These measures have however proven to be some of the most feasible ways to theoretically boost their respective economies. The UK, Germany, Italy and France are some of the countries that have furloughed government-supported job retention schemes extended to the millions of people that constitute their work-forces.
However, the impacts of Covid-19 join a long list of factors that expose Africa’s perceived economic backwardness; evidently prompted by some of the earlier mentioned infrastructure either lying in poor state, being totally dormant, lagging behind on up-to-date trends or being summarily unavailable to majority of the working population. In turn, this constricts the capacity to remain productive, keep businesses running and ensure optimal revenue generation.
With more than 590,000 confirmed cases in all African countries as at July 17th 2020, the pandemic has undoubtedly caused significant social and economic disruption. African countries have been propelled to impose various preventive and containment measures; South Africa, Rwanda, Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo constitute some of the countries that announced complete lockdowns. Governments, through their machineries and the media, have urged residents to stay home and distant, all in order to limit person-to-person transmission.
Many employers across the continent have therefore transitioned to telecommuting; permitting employees to work from home or outside their traditional workspaces, and using video conferencing platforms to conduct staff and client meetings. These employers are also adopting technological solutions that enable them shift the bulk of their operations online.
With the exemption of a few essential service providers, most organizations swiftly directed members of staff in various locations to work from home. Ringier One Africa Media (ROAM), a media company with operations in eight Sub-Saharan African countries is one of those organizations. On 24th March 2020, it signaled its readiness to adjust by announcing that it required its 400 employees to work remotely, as part of its efforts to protect them from the widespread of the virus.
Organizations are also taking advantage of Africa’s booming digital space to convene virtual management and shareholder meetings, in order to maintain the standard procedures required for effective decision-making and corporate governance. United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) is a Pan-African financial institution offering bank services to more than twenty million customers, across 1,000 business offices and customer touchpoints, in 20 African countries. On April 29th 2020, UBA held its first virtual Annual General Meeting. In attendance were representatives of relevant regulatory bodies, shareholders, management and staff of the organization. Similar industry leaders like Zenith Bank and Standard Bank Group Plc have since followed suit.
Finally, businesses have adopted strategies that have allowed both staff and customers to smoothly transition from routine cash payments to online transactions. Paga, a mobile money organization with 500 employees and a presence in two African countries is one of such. On 24th March 2020, it announced strategies to reduce cash handling, in order to slow the spread of Covid-19 and adjusted its fees in such a way that merchants can accept payment with its platform without incurring any charges.
Covid-19 has also had its enormous implications in the education sector. UNESCO says that 9.8 million African students are experiencing acute interruptions in their education, and this undoubtedly raises pressing concern.
In Nigeria, a few state governments (e.g. Ogun, Kwara and Lagos) have made provisions for continued learning via local television and radio. That is, following the indefinite closure of schools, as declared on 19th March 2020 by the Federal Government of Nigeria. This is also the case in Ivory Coast and Botswana, with both operating similar models all aimed at bridging this threatening gap. In Ghana, the University of Ghana conducts online classes and has since negotiated free internet data with indigenous telecom companies.
In Rwanda, South Africa, and Tunisia, universities have partnered with governments and internet service providers to avail students across the various institutions free access to select educational websites. In March, Eneza education partnered with Safaricom Plc to deliver free revision material to Kenyan students for 60 days; OJAR foundation, an NGO committed to the capacity development of young innovators, and African digital education leaders, Sapphital partnered to deliver an initiative dubbed ‘E-learning4impact’ which provides free access to an impressive catalogue of specially curated courses for young African across different disciplines. Private organizations and NGOs have adopted similar strategies in Egypt, Libya, Liberia, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.
While ‘Work From Home’ (WFH) and ‘Learning Never Stops’ strategies are admirable, their plausibility raises important questions. That is, against a backdrop of twin challenges – power supply and internet access. In Africa, these are effectively crippling the digital solutions and other digitalized measures aimed at taking the edge of the effects of the virus.
While the rate of global access to electricity is 87 percent, the rate in Africa is a sultry 43 percent. Residents in African countries like Chad, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda suffer epileptic power supplies. In addition, going online presents complications in an Africa where only 24% of the population have access to internet. Related problems include poor connectivity and exorbitant costs. Getting online is expensive for majority of the populace, reports suggest that purchasing a mobile phone and 500MB worth of internet data cost an average 10 percent of monthly income.
Notably, Transsion Holdings, an Asian company, produces mobile phone brands like Techno, Infinix and Itel, specifically tailored to be hybrid option; providing top-notch features and at the same time, relatively low-cost. Africans also purchase previously owned phones flooding the markets from various parts of the world hence considerably reducing the cost of mobile phone purchase amid the barely existent credit or installment payment options. Yet, a vast majority of African telecom service providers do not offer the high-speed internet access and affordable data packages to facilitate the necessary adoption of telecommuting, easy digital transactions, etc.
In usual African fashion; thriving amid long-existing turbulence, Africa is experiencing fast growth in it’s digital space. There is visible increase in tech-enabled businesses in Africa. Notably, mobile technology in Africa is its fastest growing market. 70% of the world is already connected via mobile with Africa experiencing the fastest growth in this respect. PwC reports that between 2007 – 2016, mobile phone usage in Africa increased by 344%. Mobile broadband is accessible to two-third of the population and has hugely contributed to the continent’s socio-economic development by affording digital and financial inclusion.
Importantly, mobile phones have afforded small businesses the means to participate in e-commerce. Nigeria’s e-commerce sector is Africa’s largest, valued at $13 billion. Meanwhile, WhatsApp is a free mobile app used by millions of Nigerians. Small businesses have become smart; using WhatsApp to build strong consumer relationships, increase market share and, to boost revenue generation.
The challenges in Africa’s digital space, as unveiled by the pandemic, have been percieved to be slowing down the expected utilization of technology on the continent. However, the present awareness of these problems present endless opportunities, and should become an important launch pad for innovation in infrastructure and the digital marketplace. The workplace and the education sector, for instance, can now create new, sustainable models which are accessible, inclusive and qualitative.